Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Public safety

Former state Rep. Mitch Needelman arrested on charges of bribery, bid tampering

TALLAHASSEE — After a year-long investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, former state Rep. Mitch Needelman, R-Melbourne, was arrested Thursday on charges of bribery and bid tampering, the FDLE announced.

The charges stem from a document-scanning contract that Needelman signed with BlueWare, Inc., while he served as Brevard County clerk of courts, FDLE said in a news release. Needelman is alleged to have entered the multimillion-dollar contract with the understanding that part of the money would be diverted back to Needelman's 2012 re-election campaign for clerk.

The FDLE said an investigation found that money was funneled back to the campaign through a lobbyist, William Matthew Dupree, who also has been charged. Needelman, who lost the 2012 campaign, was arrested Thursday at his home. An arrest warrant also was issued for BlueWare Chief Executive Officer Rose Harr, according to the FDLE.

BlueWare, an information technology company, moved last year from Michigan to Brevard County after being awarded a potential $1.21 million in incentives from Florida's Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund and Quick Action Closing Fund programs. The company has not received the incentive money, Sean Helton, a spokesman for Enterprise Florida, said Thursday.

In May 2012, Gov. Rick Scott issued a lengthy news release hailing BlueWare's move, saying the company would create 190 jobs over four years.

"BlueWare's choice to move to Florida is a testament to the strength of our business climate and the result of a common vision for economic growth by local, regional, business and government partners," Scott said in news release at the time. "Today's announcement is a great win for the Space Coast, as well as for the entire state."

Needelman, 60, a former Florida Marine Patrol officer, served in the House from 2000 to 2008 and was heavily involved in criminal-justice issues, including serving a stint as chairman of the Juvenile Justice Committee.

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Published: 01/17/18